Last year’s Super Bowl had a lot of memorable commercials, one of which was a very cryptic ad for an at that point unnamed film from Paramount. Later in the year, a new ad for that same film surfaced. This one featured footage of a nighttime attack on New York City. The identity of the party responsible for the attack is not made known.
What has been made known at this point is the film’s name: Cloverfield. What also becomes apparent is the involvement of Alias creator J.J. Abrams. This led to wild speculation about who or what attacked the city, and these questions continued up to the actual release of Cloverfield.The film starts off as a home video of a going away party for a young professional named Rob who has accepted a job in Japan. The party goes according to plan until a sudden tremor is felt and an explosion is spotted in the distance. When the partygoers leave the building and are greeted by the detached head of the STATUE OF LIBERTY! I can’t really say much more about the story without giving the film away, but I will say that the monster will surely raise eyebrows.
Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, went through great strides to make sure that the monster’s identity was not revealed before the public actually saw the film. Some speculated that the monster was a “Robeast”, the enemy creatures from the classic cartoon Voltron. Safe to say, the thing I saw was far from a cartoon character.
Another star of the movie along with the absolutely terrifying monster is the way the film is shot. The entire movie is shown through the lens of the same camera that was shooting the party from earlier. This means you get every ounce of shake that an ordinary video camera would give you if you were running for your life. The use of “shakey-cam” isn’t exactly new. The trend was made somewhat popular by the film The Blair Witch Project, which was the darling of the independent film scene in 1999.
The “shakey-cam” concept can be problematic for some moviegoers. Some even said that they felt a little motion sick because of the almost frantic shaking of the camera. I must admit that I had a hard time staying focused when the monster initially attacked. After about half of a minute, I was able to focus in on the action on screen. The shooting style adds a strong sense of tension to the events of the film, and there definitely wouldn’t have been such a tense atmosphere in Cloverfield if it were shot in a traditional manner.
Another effective tool used in this film was the decision to use unknown actors to cast the roles in the film. None of the people in the film are major stars, and this leads to a sense that this could actually happen. It also makes you wonder if this could have happened in your hometown.
Cloverfield is a monster movie, period. It wasn’t meant to be overly deep, but the struggle to survive that the four main characters endure is sure to be something that many viewers can identify with. The monster that attacks Manhattan makes one of the most impressive debuts since the first time Godzilla attacked Tokyo. If I could describe this movie, I would probably say it is a combination of Godzilla, The Blair Witch Project, and War of the Worlds. Many people will have issues with some of the style elements of this film, but I assure you, Cloverfield is an amazing film and one that I highly recommend.